shift

i’ve been reflecting a lot lately. possibly because i recently returned from being overseas, or perhaps because i am going through a period of transition… another academic year over, another personal year soon drawing to a close.

there’s also the reality of summer, with its cool nights and fading twilights – being in that witching hour, in that magical period between dusk and nightfall, as the first stars emerge from their hiding places and begin to twinkle in the sky – that just draws it out of me. it’s called NOSTALGIA.

i constantly struggle with living in my mind, with looking back wistfully on what was, or wasn’t, while looking ahead in daydreams that have not been realized yet. i am constantly wrestling with these thoughts and feelings and hopes and musings (someone once called it, ‘scope for the imagination’) that pull me into shifting periods of lightness and darkness, until i catch myself and dazedly ask that they stop.

oh heart, wilt thou not quiet down?

it’s been one of the most amazing and yet challenging years in my recent memory. through it all, i have learned, and am still learning…

…to find joy in the process.

…to live each day with purpose.

…to do my work well.

…to love well.

…to wrestle and rest at the same time.

…that i am part of many communities.

…that He may never remove this cup from me…

…and that’s okay.

as a new year creeps up, i hope to receive it with grace. with hands open, palms up. with knowing that, as always, things may never unfold quite as i hope or dream them to, but that doesn’t mean the dreams will fade. that He always knows, better than i do, what i need.

it’s always a little scary. apprehensive. but i’m going to hold on tight to this journey, because, if nothing else, He will be faithful to the end.

 

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death by Good Friday

you call a soul into flight

while her parents plead with her to stay

just a little longer


Death is hard when it stares you in the face. Especially when it’s a 12 year old girl who went from laughing, talking, and sharing her thoughts and feelings to lying still and motionless, while her mother cries and clutches her hand, no longer able to walk or talk or eventually breathe… all in the span of 2 weeks.

i left the hospital on Friday afternoon with a very real sense that this was not the way God had designed life to be. It almost seemed ironic to celebrate His son’s death and resurrection, to be joyful and thankful, when a precious family was mourning the slow passing of their beloved. A parent is not supposed to bury her child. Something about that seems so wrong and horrid.

But precisely because of the twisted nature of this whole scheme of life, disease, and death, I found myself clinging to hope all the more. Hope is the only truth that makes sense when everything else seems to fail my human intuition. Hope even in the midst of sorrow. I can never make meaning of death, illness, sin, and darkness, but I can make meaning of hope.

Redemption.

Hope.

Trusting that there is a Bigger, Grander plan. That someday, that Master Plan will be restored and redeemed. So whether it’s in the context of a family grieving over their daughter, or whether it’s in the context of all the dreams and selfish hopes I build over the years that may never be realized, or only realized through blood, sweat, and tears, there is blessing and redemption waiting to be found.

My hope is not in myself, or my own strengths or abilities, but my hope is in Someone not of this world and who is yet, Creator of this world.

She’s still holding on. I was scared she would have passed over the weekend, but she’s still fighting to remain. And yet, her time to pass is imminent. For now, we are offering support in as much as her family is able to bear their grief and loss.

Some difficult lessons have been learned this past [school] year. I can’t believe it’s almost over, and that my school career is practically over. It feels almost anti-climactic in a way.

… to be continued.

heartstrings.

heartstrings being tugged, both directions.

sometimes the horrors of this work that i do is unimaginable. and i’ve realized that i keep much of it to myself because (a.) I want to protect others’ emotions, and (b.) nobody really understands. for example, how could anyone respond to the following?  – –

i went to visit a family yesterday afternoon at the tail-end of my day at CII. the referral was for a 2 year old who presented with extreme disruptive and ADHD-like behaviors, who currently lived with a relative. this relative was at his wit’s end, trying to make meaning of why this child was so hyperactive and disruptive.

it turns out that when this little blond, blue-eyed boy was 8 months old and living with his parents, he witnessed his dad pull the trigger on his mom. while he was being held by his mom, he watched her getting shot in the head, all of the insides of her brain spilling onto him. i can’t even imagine what his reaction must have been: did he freeze? did he cry?

and though he is in a safe place now, he continues to carry the memory of that incident, and possibly several memories of other incidents, around in his little body. no wonder he can’t sit still, doesn’t know how to use his words, screams and flaps his hands when in distress, throws toys all over the floor, and can’t sleep.

my heart cries out, “God, why?” 

i keep the information in my head, intellectualizing, so that i can explain to the relative how trauma affects very young children. meanwhile, i don’t quite know how to process and what to do with all of this stuff. i think, in a way, walls are necessary as a protective factor. but the sad part is, that many of us are all alone and isolated from sharing stories like this one to our closest friends and family, to our communities.

it’s sobering, but it’s a confirmation. confirmation that this work is necessary and someone  has to be there to walk with these broken families.

but why me?

this morning, while at LLU hospital, I made my routine visit to see one of my patients, a teenage girl with a relapse of osteosarcoma that has since metastasized, who actually placed herself in foster care because she did not feel safe living with her parents. this young girl had decided a few months ago that she would no longer pursue another round of chemotherapy, because previously the cancer had returned more aggressively after some rounds of chemo.

today, she told me and her attending physician that she had decided to give chemo another chance. my heart fluttered. i told her how proud i was of her decision, and she blossomed into a shy and happy smile. i asked her what had changed her mind. she told me that God had told her that morning that He would protect her, watch over her, keep her safe. my heart swelled.

again, confirmation.

this work is exhausting and draining. but these are the moments, good and bad, when i realize this is the work i have been called to. i’m slowly processing the events and experiences of this past week. it hasn’t been easy, but my heart is stirred by something deeper and bigger than myself, telling me it shall all be okay… someday.

in the meantime, those heartstrings… they will continue to be pulled.

here.

i’m sitting in a nondescript motel room in San Francisco, South of MArket street (SoMA), wondering how tomorrow morning will pan out. the last 2 1/2 years have been a blur, and it’s been difficult for me to grasp that i am almost finished with this doctoral program… that i am wading through pre-doctoral internship interviews this month and will soon, hopefully, be matched somewhere for next year, God willing. in a way, it takes me back to when i was applying for jobs post-APU, interviewing at dozens of places, with hardly any clinical experience, at the beginning of a lifelong journey. today, i am in a different place, having walked with dozens of families and individuals, witnessing their own journeys towards healing and stronger relationships, but in a way doing this all over again – attempting to show my competence and stand out from the dozens of other doctoral students with the same hopes and dreams of landing an internship. ultimately, i have confidence that God will open the door to wherever He wants me to be. He has been faithful in doing so thus far. But also, I must remind myself that this life, and His purpose, are so much bigger than what I’ve imagined. whether I am in San Francisco or in Long Beach next year, or whether I fail at internship match-ing and need to re-apply next year, I want to trust in the Lord and remember that it’s about Him and His glory… not my own desires.

it’s hard for me to explain this to friends and family who don’t get it – the stirring of my heart and passions towards a Dream that has never been all mine in the first place. i don’t want them to feel like I’m imposing or projecting upon them. but to me, it’s always made sense… even when i didn’t have the words to verbally define or conceptualize the desires of my heart. I’m driven by something deeper than myself.

Regardless of where I will be in September of 2017, just nine months from now, I know that I have been blessed with much. and there is still much i want to do. i hope i will always continue to live with this passion, of living outside of myself, believing in Someone bigger than myself, and bringing His joy to the world, one family at a time.

midst

when simple song lyrics have the power to cause a lump to form in my throat and threaten tears from somewhere deep, i know God is doing something special. it is not without its price – the stretching and the pain, and the realization of my brokenness and my need for utter and complete dependence upon Him, because I fall so short – but He gives grace and mercy in abundance. He does not withhold. and i am so grateful.

i thought the hardest seasons of my graduate school career were over last spring with the successful passage of competency exams. alas, i find i am much more stretched this summer with two externships, one which is so utterly challenging that i continually question what i’m doing there, but amazing and full of gratitude at the same time, being a peer consultant, a teaching assessment, taking two classes, and applying for 16 internship sites.

life outside of graduate school is not much freer, as i was asked to intern for a cell group last minute, and Encounter preparation is in full swing. Tapestry Church is full to the brim, and we are moving our physical location in one month. i’m thinking about new relationships – how to maintain and express interest, while my current friendships evolve.

it’s hard to see an end to all of this, but i know the end is slowly coming. i tell myself, remind myself, to enjoy the process, to enjoy the ride, to drink the cup, and be fully present. it’s difficult, because i forget instantly. but again, God in His grace, gives abundantly. He is faithful, and I know that to be at this moment of being stretched in these ways, when there is so much on my plate, but I love every bit of what I’m doing almost equally, must mean there is something special to be had around the corner.

so i continue to hold on and trust. God is in my midst, and I shall not be moved (psalm 46.5)

dreaming

“Behold, I will create a new heaven and a new earth.

The former things will not be remembered, 

nor will they come to mind.

But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, 

for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight

and its people a joy. 

I will rejoice over Jerusalem

and take delight in my people;

the sound of weeping and of crying

will be heard in it no more.” Isaiah 65:17

 

It’s the Nigerian sky that I’m dreaming of. I dreamed of some of the King’s Kids last night, and I woke up this morning feeling comforted and calm. I am praying to return next summer, that the Lord will open doors and work His perfect timing for it to happen. I know there is a chance I may not be able to go, but I hope and pray that He will send me again. I wonder how those kids are doing – if they are doing well in school, doing their chores, maintaining and growing friendships and relationships, dreaming about their futures, taking care of each other. Though one month has passed since we took this adventure, and the feelings and memories are not as potent as they were right after we returned, for me the sights, sounds, and smells still exist in my brain. If I closed my eyes and concentrated hard enough, I would be back in that hot, humid place. This morning as I opened my Bible, it fell open naturally to the passage above. How fitting to be reminded of the “new Jerusalem” that one of the house ‘mums’, Carol, described the King’s Village as being an example of. Those beautiful kids and staff truly have my heart.

 

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rollercoaster

it really has been.

there have been highs and lows over the past month that have made feel dizzy, tired, elated, scared.

getting my first choice for externship next [academic] year? check.

getting the green light of ‘pass’ for dissertation proposal? check.

sending out my Nigeria support letters? check.

finishing my second year of school successfully? check.

crawling through comps [currently] and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel get bigger? check.

and then there’s life. while simultaneously welcoming new life into the world, full of joy, this also means slowly saying good-bye to those loved ones who are moving on.

my grandmother is 96. she has gone from a strong, passionate, vibrant, energetic, independent matriarch, full of life and beauty, to a frail, thin, weak, anxious, scared, forgetful, old woman. i haven’t seen her in four years, and thinking about her current emotional, mental, and physical state is too hard to bear. i know her time is coming, but i can’t imagine her being gone from this world. and it’s made me think even more about my own recent existential crises.

know i can’t control everything. i know change happens and it’s part of the beauty of life. i know God knows and is in control. i know that i’ve internalized this desire to be loved and sometimes i don’t know if i am. i can’t feel it. so many things i know. but all the same, it’s hard. so very hard.

there’s been opportunity these past few weeks to experience joy. and there’s been opportunity to sit with grief and pain. but i think i need to find a moment [when will that be?] to sit and reflect upon who I am in the midst of all this stuff.

so that i don’t just know, but that i am.